August 7, 2019

Claim the Stage podcast interview with Angela Lussier



Listen in on my conversation with Angela Lussier about ditching perfection and creating connection as a speaker!



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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

August 1, 2019

It's not fair



Last week, as many of my speaker colleagues packed and prepared to attend our annual convention, I saw a repeated refrain in our comment threads, all a variation of:

"I have to get a blow out, spray tan, hair colored and cut, teeth whitened, nails done, legs waxed, lashes extended, eyebrows dyed, shop for makeup and new outfits, find my Spanx, and find a gown to wear to the gala that I haven't worn before."

While lamenting that our male colleagues don't have to do any of this to prepare for a conference.

And more than once: "It's not fair."

Is it really? Not fair?

I'm not going to go into a huge gender socialization rant here or rail against a society that has such dramatically different expectations for women and men when it comes to appearance. Unfortunately, gender socialization frequently blinds us to the reality that we do, in fact, have a choice.

This post is about choice. You have a choice.

Sure, there are things in life that aren't fair, like genuine discrimination on the basis of gender, race, ability or sexual orientation.

But nobody is forcing women to dress and groom ourselves the way we do.

I'm not going to pretend I'm immune. I hate shaving my legs, and I actually stopped doing it about 30 years ago. But then I realized that sometimes I want to wear a skirt on stage, without tights or pantyhose. And I don't want my audience to be distracted if they notice my hairy legs.

So a couple of years ago, I started getting my legs waxed. Once a year, in the summer, so if it's hot and I want to wear a skirt or dress without tights onstage, I can, and no one will be distracted.

I hate that I care about this, or that someone might be so disturbed by the faint hair on my legs that they won't be able to listen to my content. But it's still my choice to wax my legs that one time a year. No one is forcing me to do it. I could wear tights. I could wear pants. I could let it go, and see what happens!

You have a choice. Do you have to dye your hair? Nope. Do you have to whiten your teeth? Nope. Do you have to wear Spanx? Good lord, no you do not!

Don't kid yourself that someone is "making" you do these things. The only thing that isn't fair is how you're treating yourself, like you're not a good enough female human unless you jump through all these hoops that prove you're what society considers appropriate and feminine.

If you enjoy doing all of this stuff before a big conference or speaking engagement, then by all means do it! I'm not judging and nobody has a right to judge you.

But if it annoys you... if you feel that "it's not fair"... and if you wish you didn't have to do it...

Guess what: You don't!

There are women speakers who don't wear heels, or clingy dresses that require Spanx, who don't spend a fortune on hair, lash and nail maintenance, wear minimal makeup (depending on the stage, you probably need at least some to be seen) and who still get hired and, by the way, get paid a lot of money to do what they do.

You are more than your appearance. Your message is what matters. Your personality, your authenticity, your connection with the audience. Your brilliance.

No matter what anyone else says, you don't have to do anything you don't enjoy doing.

What's not fair? You or anyone else making you feel that you're not good enough just as you are.

P.S. Have you read my book, Presenting for Humans: Insights for Speakers on Ditching Perfection and Creating Connection? Just another little encouragement toward being real, embracing your uniqueness, and kicking butt on stage!

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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

July 17, 2019

Your voice: Small pebble... big ripples



A few years ago, I was taking my usual shortcut through Earl Warren Showgrounds on my daily walk, when I was stopped by a family in an SUV. They had a couple of questions about the Fiesta rodeo, a longstanding Santa Barbara tradition that's part of our annual Old Spanish Days festivities.

"How is the rodeo?" they asked. "Is it suitable for children?" And... "Is it violent?"

If you know me at all, if you know how much I love animals and if you know that I've been a vegetarian for 30 years, you'll have an idea how I answered.

I shared my thoughts honestly. I told them that I don't agree with rodeos, that animals are harmed in the process and that I didn't feel it was suitable for children.

1) Animals (especially mammals) are feeling, thinking, intelligent creatures that suffer physical and emotional pain (reach out if you'd like me to send you resources on on the intelligence and sensitivity of animals).

2) People dominating animals for entertainment is harmful to both the animals and to the onlookers, as the audience becomes desensitized to the suffering of animals. (Yes, I know people still do these activities on ranches, which is an argument in favor of rodeos. That still doesn't make it okay as entertainment.)

But no, there's no blood and gore. The parents were satisfied with our conversation and they pressed on to look for a parking spot.

I had felt heartbroken that day walking through the showgrounds, past all the rodeo horses and other animals in their stalls unaware of the fear, stress and possible injury awaiting them.

The opportunity to speak with this family raised my spirits and gave me hope. I was grateful to introduce them to a perspective on rodeo they might not have heard before, about the effects on the animals pressed into service for what many consider to be an inhumane sport.

They listened and seemed thoughtful, and I hope they took my words to heart and maybe did more research on their own.

Speaking up for change doesn't have to be dramatic or aggressive. It can be loud or soft. It can be a poke or a shove, a shuffle or a stride. Change is change, whether big or small. 

Your voice is needed. Your message is valuable. A pebble still makes ripples!

What change do you want to bring about? What cause or issue are you passionate about? Want to make big ripples or small ripples? The choice is yours! 

Join my #speakingupforchange 5-day challenge starting Monday, July 22, and learn five simple steps toward getting your message off your heart, out of your head, and into the world! 


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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

July 3, 2019

I dare you to be expressive



One of my clients has been working her way through the upper levels of her organization with a culture-changing idea for her company. She flies jumbo jets, and her idea would impact all pilots in her airline, and ideally, pilots across all of aviation.

After her first presentation, to which she had invited some of her peers for support, she felt really good about her performance. She made a brief comment to her (all male) peers about an area where she thought she fell short, and they immediately began critiquing her.

For 45 minutes they deconstructed her talk, giving only negative feedback, and the piece that really stuck with her was the idea that she's was "being a showman."

When she and I first met, she was very clear with me that her style is forceful and bold. As the commander of a jet, she can't be shy and retiring. She's knows her personality is strong and she's a very expressive presenter.

Luckily, she didn't beat herself up about the feedback. She carefully analyzed it and went into the following morning's meeting with resolve to get the results she needed for her project.

And she did. The chief pilot suggested sending her idea up the chain of command and having the legal department take a look.

Let's talk about this concept of showmanship, and some speakers' fears around being seen as enthusiastic and passionate.

My client is passionate about her cause, and when she speaks about it, her passion comes out. When I hear her speak, I get excited too!

However, her male colleagues (but not the boss!) were extremely uncomfortable with what they deemed to be unprofessional behavior.

This is partly because women in general are often judged in the workplace for expressing emotion - any emotion. Not just sadness or anger, but also excitement and enthusiasm. But so are men, especially in the workplace, and mostly for enthusiasm.

"Emotions are just not professional," according to some sad, dreary dude in a gray suit way back in the olden days.

The problem with this belief is that it's wrong. And also, as a speaker, you must engage your audience emotionally in order to be persuasive. People don't change attitudes, beliefs or behaviors based on data alone.

Take a look at advertising, where experts in consumer psychology persuade us to buy things every day based on our emotions. Sure, there's some data, but we use that to justify our decision, once we're already sucked in emotionally.

If you want results from your presentations, you must activate your audience's emotions.

That doesn't mean you, personally, have to be emotional in a big way. But digging into your own emotions about your topic and taking your audience on a journey with you so they feel something is how change happens.

My client and I discussed how she can be persuasive but not "stagey," and this is a valid concern. She's expressive (as am I), but she needs to be careful not to "perform" expressiveness so that it looks like she's acting.

As speakers, our voice, our hands, our bodies and our facial expressions are all connected, and they're connected to our emotions. They have to be, otherwise we look like we're faking it.

There's a middle ground between stagey and conversational, between over the top and just having a chat.

If we want to activate emotions, we have to tap into our own emotions and be willing to express them in order to bring our audience into our world. I know you might feel embarrassed for your audiences to perceive you as human, but human and authentic is what they want!

For me, expressiveness is a big part of my presentation style. It's not easy to get photos of me presenting, because I am ALWAYS making a face. My hands, my body and my face are all quite expressive. So on a scale of 1 to 10, I'm probably at a 9 when it comes to expressiveness.

This may not feel comfortable to you! But a 1 out of 10 is going to put your audience to sleep, guaranteed.

How can you increase your expressiveness in a way that is authentic to you, but also helps activate your audience's emotions? Can you move the needle from a 2 to a 4? From a 4 to a 6?

I dare you to upgrade your showmanship. 

Let your emotions flow naturally. Let your body and face be expressive, the same way they probably are when you're sitting around at a barbecue telling stories to your friends or kids.

There is no shame in being enthusiastic. There is nothing wrong with being expressive.

You can be in solidarity with the sad gray guy who decided enthusiasm is unprofessional. Or you can take a risk and free yourself from the restraints that one or two people in your workplace or audience would place on you.

My client got her results because her superior wasn't intimidated or threatened by her energy, and he was able to hear her message, get the data AND allow his own emotions to be activated.

Don't let small-minded fearful people interfere with your bold and courageous message!


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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

June 26, 2019

Don't wait for someone else to speak up



Once upon a time, I was getting on the freeway at an onramp near my home, and for the nth time, was nearly sideswiped by a car entering in the lane next to me. This onramp has two left turn lanes to enter the freeway, but once you begin the turn, the lane markings disappear.

If someone doesn't realize there are two lanes, it's very easy for them to drift from the left into the right lane. Accident waiting to happen.

So I contacted CalTrans on their website and shared my concern (they have a form just for these kinds of suggestions), and I received an auto-reply that my concern would be investigated. Exciting! But would it, really?

Less than a month later, I was getting on the freeway at this onramp, and suddenly realized that the entrance lanes were now demarcated with raised pavement markers!

(Here's a little factoid for you: These markers are called Botts' Dots.)

This was a small win, personally, but it made a big impact on all the drivers entering the freeway on that very busy street.

And I had had little faith that my concern would actually be heard and acted upon.

What are you longing to speak up about? What issue do you care deeply about, but feel powerless or afraid to address?

And what's holding you back?

  • Discomfort around being seen and heard? 
  • Fear of reprisal? 
  • Weariness from being ignored in the past? 
  • Apprehension about shocking people?
  • Belief that nothing will happen? 
  • Confusion about what's the next right action to take?

I hear you and I see you!

There are as many reasons NOT to speak up as there are to speak up.

Like you, I've suffered the emotional consequence of speaking up and being ignored or chastised. I've also experienced the incredible reward of speaking up and seeing change happen.

It's easy to sit back and wait for someone else to complain.

Or to share a post on Facebook and think we've done our civic duty to speak out on an issue (it's a start).

But someone else won't complain. Or not enough people will speak up. Or a lot of people will speak up, but not effectively enough to get other people to take action.

Sometimes we just don't care enough to speak up until we personally have been affected by an issue (like my unsafe neighborhood onramp). That's okay! Pick your battles. You can't fix everything, but you can take baby steps toward effecting change. You just have to participate in the conversation.

And... this is important... you have to be willing to take action and share action steps with others. Because the biggest frustration when we want change is not knowing HOW to take action. This is what knocks back the best of us from speaking out when we want to!

Want to learn how to effectively speak up in just a few easy steps?

Join my #SpeakingUpForChange 5-day Challenge here! We start Monday, July 22.

Have you stepped out of your comfort zone and spoken up lately?

Share it, use the hashtag #speakingupforchange, and tag me!


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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

May 25, 2019

Why can't every talk be a TED talk?



TEDxUCLA
TED talks are the "it girl" of speaking. Everyone wants their presentation to be as cool as a TED talk, as profound as a TED talk, and as viral as a TED talk.

I'm a huge fan of TED talks (and their locally-produced TEDx brethren). I've written about many of them here on Speak Schmeak, in fact. I admire the ability of TED speakers to quickly and concisely express their big idea in a compelling way, using stories, analogies and sometimes visuals to share their message.

When you only have 18 minutes or less to make an impact, you keep it simple.

However, in a TED talk, you also have minimal tools at your disposal. TED talks are time-limited on purpose: "...short enough to hold people's attention, including on the internet, and precise enough to be taken seriously. But it's also long enough to say something that matters."

In my workshops (which are often a day and a half long), I'm asked by my corporate training clients to address specific learning objectives and teach specific skills. Not only do I teach skills, but I also give my participants time to practice the skills they've learned.

I teach a range of public speaking concepts, provide activities and exercises to help the group internalize and remember the concepts, and then provide practical feedback as they practice the skills related to the concepts. There's also a lot of "white space," time to process what the group is learning, to take breaks and to sleep on new concepts.

Sorry, but 18 minutes isn't enough.

I remember reading a Seth Godin article once where he gave tips for effective presentations, and he suggested that the perfect length for a presentation was: "Most of the time, the right answer is, 'ten.' Ten minutes of breathtaking big ideas with big pictures and big type and few words and scary thoughts and startling insights. And then, and then, spend the rest of your time just talking to me. Interacting. Answering questions. Leading a discussion." Most of the time? I have to disagree.

There is no one right answer for how long a presentation should be. There is no one right answer for what style a presentation should be. There is no one right answer for "slides or no slides." 

There is no one right way to achieve the desired outcomes of a presentation, because there are many, many reasons we give presentations, and there are as many presentation styles as there are reasons to give presentations!

There's a reason we have 60-minute conference breakouts, and 20-minute keynotes, and short TED-style talks, and 2-minute quick tips, and "un-presentations," and PechaKucha, and pitch weekends, and group discussions, and Ignite-style talks, and 3-day workshops, and other alternative ways of presenting.

Each kind of presentation serves a unique purpose. Each audience has different needs and goals. Each presenter has different ways of achieving results.

My jam is training. Sure, I can do a ten-minute talk, and I have! I can do 60 seconds if necessary. I can be persuasive and inspiring and even teach some public speaking skills in that amount of time.

But it's not my preference, and the people who hire me do so because my jam is jumping into the deep end with their people and getting into the nitty gritty details of presentation skills, speaker mindset, confidence-building, audience engagement, ditching perfection and creating connection.

Truthfully, only about four hours of a 1 1/2-day training is straight content, though experiential. The rest of the time is practice, which sparks questions and discussion.

In follow-up surveys with clients who did experiential training vs. clients who only received the content but no practice, 90% of participants with experiential training are still using their skills three months later and 95% feel from 50-300% more confident about their speaking skills than they did before the training.

Contrast this result with participants who only received content (as well as all the tools at my disposal except practice: stories, analogies, exercises, activity, group discussion, visuals and more): only 79% of participants are still using their skills three months later. The confidence numbers are slightly lower, too. Okay, so these follow-up results aren't terrible (what can I say? I'm good at what I do...), but if my participants could do better with experiential learning, they should get experiential learning!

What are the needs of your audience? What is your jam as a presenter? 

I know everyone wants the "magic bullet," the one "right answer" to every question. What's the one magic way to lose weight and keep it off forever? What's the one magic way to make a million dollars and never have to worry about money again? What's the one magic way to give a presentation that wins you raving fans, clients and viral success?

Nope. There is no one right answer. No magic bullet. And no, every talk can't be a TED talk, nor should it be. 

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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

May 2, 2019

Being vs. becoming



Twice in conversations with a client, she's told me, "I'm not a writer." And yet, she is a writer, because she writes!

Perhaps I'm oversimplifying a bit, because I suppose there's a difference between someone who writes all the time and enjoys it (whether or not they receive income from it), and a person who writes sometimes and finds it a struggle.

So, with this in mind, that there is a certain mental "picture" she might have about what a writer is, and a story she's telling herself about herself, I suggested she change the story to "I'm becoming a writer."

Because while it might be true that she doesn't fit her mental picture of what a writer is, it's also true that the more she writes, the more she becomes a writer.

I often hear from my clients and colleagues that they're "not speakers." And yet, they stand in front of audiences or classrooms or conference room tables and they speak, teach, train, inform, educate, persuade and inspire.

Does someone have to get paid for speaking to call themselves a speaker? Nope.

Does someone have to give formal speeches to call themselves a speaker? Nope. 

Do other people need to believe you're a speaker for you to believe you're a speaker? NOPE!

If you give presentations as part of your job; if your business requires you to teach something to people in groups; if you give regular reports or deliver information to groups of colleagues, clients, community members or other stakeholders... you're a speaker!

Maybe you only speak sometimes and you find it a struggle, like my client mentioned about her writing. You have the power to change the story you tell yourself. 

Are you a speaker? Maybe you're not quite mentally there yet. Are you becoming a speaker? Try that story on for size and see how it feels.

P.S. If you'd like some support in making that mental shift to start becoming the speaker you're meant to be, Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a free, no-pressure conversation to explore your speaking needs!

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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

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